This early '70s band fused elements of Jazz, Blues, Soul, Afro-Latin and Rock (they were a great influence on many hip hop groups who sampled their work). Most often classified as a Latin Jazz group. This release went all the way to the Top 50.
Mandrill: Louis Wilson, Richard Wilson, Carlos Wilson, Omar Mesa, Claude "Coffee" Cave, Fudgie Kaem, Neftali Santiago.
Recorded at Electric Ladyland Studios, New York, New York in December 1970. Includes liner notes by Mark Marymont.
Mandrill's debut isn't half the album it could've been, since the band's talented musicianship and desire to experiment were often subverted -- by ambitions of pop success as well as a dry, over-serious approach to music-making. The three Wilson brothers, though masters of over a dozen instruments, still hadn't mastered the added burden of songwriting; "Warning Blues" is perfunctory (as is the vocal performance) and "Symphonic Revolution" is a bland summer-day soul song with cloying strings. The group sounds much more confident getting into a good groove and allowing room for some great playing; the band's self-titled song, "Mandrill," is the best here, featuring great solos for flute and vibraphone. Mandrill also loved playing with different musical forms: "Rollin' On" moves from an average rock song to a torrid Latin jam and climaxes with a testifying gospel session. Most ambitious of all is the five-part, 14-minute suite "Peace and Love," but the intriguing concept is negated by a few bizarre pieces, one of which sounds like a parody of a Vincent Price reading over a Santana jam. The band would soon learn that experimentation and stylistic change-ups were a means, not an end. ~ John Bush